They are the queens of the up-close-and-personal quick-kill in virtual battlefields, the darling of Hong Kong cinema slow-motion, and the tool of the drive-up...they are the Machine Pistol! These little automatic pistol spew brass and bullets downrange with varying degrees of accuracy and have a dicey history with military organizations and law enforcement. In addition, in this article will be discussing the oddball bigger cousin of the machine pistol: the Assault Pistol. So strap in as we here at FWS attempt to explore and explain this very interesting weapons platforms!
What is an "Machine Pistol"?
The Combat Role of the Machine Pistol
The 5 Types of Machine Pistol Layouts by Yoel
The last three layouts are the most uncommon. The third layout of machine pistols is a sort of bullpup layout, normally chambered in 9mm or .45ACP and is operated one handed. The user braces the weapon against their bicep instead of the shoulder. While uncommon, there was the experimental Colt Arm-Pistol in 5.56mm, the Sidewinder 9mm/.45ACP developed by Sidney McQueen in the 1960's. These weapons were designed with pilots and dog handlers in mind, but no military organization ever adopted them,
The 4th machine pistol mechanical layout is where the ammo is being feed from a horizontal magazine, similar to the FN P90 5.7mm PDW. While the P90 is not a machine pistol. unless you are Teal'c, there were two prototype machine pistols that feed from a horizontal magazine: the 9mm Hill H15 and the Marshall Arms SMG prototype.
What is the Difference Between the Machine Pistol, the SMG, and the PDW?
The origin of the machine pistols was to be used in a personal defense fashion by World War One Imperial German artillery troops to defend themselves and it can be used in that manner. Some believe that the worlds of machine pistols and PDWs intersect with the H&K MP7 that has design element in a similar manner to a machine pistol, but fires a custom engineered 4.6x30mm cartridge. Some of this is similar to the abandon G11 PDW 4.73mm caseless pistol concept…more on that below.
The History of the Machine Pistol
What is the Difference between the AR Pistol, Carbine, the SBR, and the Commando Carbine?
What is an "Assault Pistol"?
The Assault Pistol (AKA AR Pistol) is the physical embodiment of the term “What If” applied to a firearm and how to design a firearm around getting through a loophole in US firearms law. These specialized and unique firearms are seemingly most designed and released for the US civilian firearms market. They occupy an interest niche within the firearms community and their favor with the bureau of alcohol tobacco firearms and explosives has fluctuated greatly over the years. Mostly, Assault Pistols are based off the AR-15 design with a shortened barrel that less than 16inches and without a stock while still chambering the same assault rifle cartridge the standard AK or AR-15 assault rifle. These short barrel rifles were designed in such a way to allow civilians to buy an SBR without the expensive tax stamp, but in order to do that, the stock was stripped off, causing the handling and accuracy of the weapon to be lessened than their larger brethren. In order to solve the accuracy and recoil issues, some companies have designed stock-like attachments like “arm braces” and “cheek rests”. At present, the Assault Rifle is enjoying its moment within the US civilian firearms market.
The History of the Assault Pistol
The Combat Role of the Assault Pistol…the Firing Port Weapon!
And then there is the "Arm Pistol"
Now, the M231 appears like current crop of civilian AR-5 Pistols, but originally, it was developed with a wire shoulder stock from the M3 Grease Gun. That stock was removed due to the extreme recoil generated by the 12250 RPM causing the stock to fly off. In operation, six M231 FPWs were carried by the M2 Bradleys with their magazines loaded with all M196 tracer rounds to allow the mechanized infantry to walk the rounds to the target. The weapons were stripped of the forward sight assembly and they were pretty much used for suppressive fire, not hitting tangos in the A-Box. Around 27,000 M231 FPWs were produced and they have been used in combat during the twin Gulf Wars by both mechanized infantry and the Bradley crews during urban operations. Today, the M231 FPWs still float around the Bradleys due to the the side firing ports were plugged up with armor and only the two rear firing ports still intact.
Examples of Real-Steel Machine-Pistols
The Glock 18 & C 9x19mm
The Colt SCAMP
The Lebman 1911 Machine Pistol
The MAC M-11 & M-11/9
The H&K VP70
The Beretta 93R
The Škorpion vz. 61
Example of Real-Steel Assault Pistols
The XM29 OICW 5.56mm KE Module/XM8 Compact Carbine
When you look at the KE module, it looks very much like an Assault Pistol, and one can envision being able to separate/strip-off that module off the bulky grenade launcher and using it during a desperate situation. When the XM29 OICW project was cancelled, the 5.56mm KE module was transformed into the attempted US Army next-generation weapon system: the H&K XM8. One of the variants of the XM8 assault rifle was indeed very similar to an Assault Pistol: the stockless 5.56mm XM8 Compact Carbine. In truth, there were two versions of the compact carbine, one with a very basic skeleton/wire stock and another with only a shoulder strap lug. It is likely if the XM8 had been officially adopted by the US Army. The compact carbine variant would have been issued to armored vehicle crews and helicopter pilots, similar to the British Army L22.
The Two Sci-Fi Weapons We Could NOT Include :(
During these years, the Goncz become a darling of film, TV, anime in the 1990's. For me, the Goncz GA pistol was the favorite sidearm of Frank Castle in the original Punisher War Journal series. During the first issue of the comic in 1988. Microchip gave Frank an Goncz to test and loved it. It would be the favorite of his in the first year of the comic, when I was reading it religiously. Due to legal disputes about the rights over the design and California banning the weapon, Claridge Hi-Tec would cease production on the pistol and carbine. The three last times we saw the Goncz GA pistol was in the terrible Tim Burton Planet of the Apes,as the carbine model in Firefly, and in the hands of Sam Rockwell in Iron Man II.
What about Directed-Energy Machine Pistols and Assault Pistols?
It is easier to classify kinetic energy weaponry in the classifications of "machine pistols" and "assault pistols" due to the ammunition they fire and their use of current firearm platforms. However, do these classifications still label if (or when) directed-energy weaponry finally replaces KEWs as the primary platform for military small arms? What spawned this section was that I was recently replaying HALO 2 anniversary on my Xbox One and I using the Type-25 Covenant "DE Rifle" made me think about this question: Is the Covenant Type-25 plasma rifle an assault rifle or assault pistol?
Given the alien anatomy of the Elites, it makes sense that their weaponry does not conform to human standards, but it wasn't until HALO 2 that a more standard buttstocked rifle for the Sangheli entered into the series with the Carbine and then later in HALO 4 with the Type-55 Storm Rifle. In the way that the Elites use the Type-25 Plasma Rifle, it makes me that we could classify the Type-25 has an "Assault Pistol" given its higher output plasma bolts over the Type-25 plasma pistol, being fully-automatic, and the buttstock-less design. While real-world military-spec handheld DE weapons do not exist yet, we know that it is highly unlikely that DEWs would not have similar recoil to a chemically propelled KEWs. Which begs the question: would buttstocked assault rifle on a plasma weapon in a 40-watt range even be necessary? Does that mean that all DE assault rifles would be classified as an "assault pistol"? Despite the possible lack of recoil on DE assault rifles, it is highly likely that firearms manufactures would continue to add shoulder stocks to allow for the organic aiming pattern that we humans have been doing since the days of muskets. However, that could change based on technological changes and improvements. What if you did not need to aim down the sights like current firearms, but your helmet’s HUD was connected to your weapon, allowing you to aim it without the need to aim down the sights? This would be some akin to the way we operate virtual firearms in first-person shooters. This could, coupled with exo-skeleton frames, allow shooters to not need shoulder stocks and thus, could make more future firearms designed around the assault rifle/carbine concept as an “assault pistol”.
The Lack of Shoulder-Stocks in Sci-Fi Weaponry
Science Fiction and Machine Pistol and the Assault Pistol
Examples of Machine Pistols:
The Machine Pistols of the weird world of Aeon Flux
The Machine Pistols of the weird world of Aeon Flux
The Various Machine Pistols from Total Recall (1990)
One of the last good Arnold Schwarzenegger movies of the apex of his film career was 1990's Total Recall, directed by Paul Verhoeven. Throughout the film, the primary weapon of choice among the different sides of the conflict on Earth and on Mars are mostly machine pistols and sub-guns. It makes sense for the forces on Mars to use compact weapons in the limited pressurized space in the Federal colonies on Mars. Sci-fi dressings are fitted on MAC-11/MAC-10 in .380, Micro-UZIs, along with the semi-auto pistols of the Goncz GA and the Calico M590. Given Verhoeven bloody and kinetic style, his love for the machine pistols make sense. They deal death with much spitting brass and cinematic flair.
The Three Machine Pistol from the Living Steel RPG (1987)
The OCP Auto-9 Machine Pistol from ROBOCOP (1987)
The Helghast IvP-18 Tropov Machine Pistol and the StA-18 Machine Pistol from the Killzone Universe
The Morpheus Glock 18C in the Matrix Reloaded
In the 2002 sequel to the original Matrix film, we Morpheus using a Glock 18C during the operation to get the key-maker and defend him from the deadly twins. During the fight in the underground garage, Morpheus fires his Glock 18C that is being feed from an nearly flush 19 magazine. That switches to a 33-round magazine when Morpheus nd crew hit the freeway with agents and the twin in pursuit. For many, these beautiful scenes introduced us to the Glock 18C machine pistol and likely one of the reasons it is popular today in video game culture.
The Locust Gorgon Machine Pistol from the Gears of War Universe
The 1st Cylon War Centurion the M91R Pistol from Battlestar Galactica: Razor
The Grammaton Cleric Sidearms from Equilibrium
The B23R Burst Auto-Pistol and the KAP-40 from COD: Black Ops: II
could be quite deadly if wielded by the right user and kitted out the right way. In close encounter situations, the KAP-40 could hose you down with incoming .45 slugs and kill you hard, especially in hardcore mode with one KAP in each hand. There have been many times when I had the drop on someone and they hosed me with duel KAP-40. Then at times, I could double tap-out a KAP-40 user with my #1 Lady, the Tac-45 while they sprayed and prey...the mistress of COD online play can be a harsh mistress.
The Violet's Flatted Auto Pistols from Ultraviolent
The Federation "Paragun" Blaster from Blake's 7
The RDF Pilot Machine Pistol from ROBOTECH: The Macross Saga
During the 1st Robotech War, the RDF standard field weapon was this little weapon: an 9mm submachine pistol. This weapon was rarely seen in the series or in the original Macross. So, this made an Odd choice when this machine pistol was included with several of the Matchbox ROBOTECH 1980s RDF action figures, like Rick Hunter and Lisa Hayes. None of the figures were able to hold the weapon effectively. As a kid, I thought the inclusion of this machine pistol with the RDF character was not a good choice and I had trouble remembering what this pistol was in the Macross series. I honestly thought it was a MAC-10/11 back then and do believe the popularity of those types of machine pistols/sub-guns was the reason for the Japanese studio to design and include this weapon int he 1982 series.
The AB-10 "Sig-Cow" Machine Pistol from the original DOOM
The REF/RDF Wolf 9mm Auto-Pistol from ROBOTECH: The New Generation
The Judge's Lawgiver Pistol from the Judge Dredd Universe
The Lawgiver is one of the iconic handguns in all of science fiction and deserves its own article...and it will at some point. Within the original comic, the 1995 movie and the 2012 movie interpretations of the iconic weapon of the Judge, we see that the Lawgiver pistol can fire in "rapid-fire" mode that causes the Lawgiver to move into the realm of machine pistol. This was seen a great deal in the brutal 2012 film with the Glock 17-underpinning of the Lawgiver being used in close-quarters combat in rapid-fire setting with brass spitting out.
The SMGs from the Mass Effect Universe
Examples of Assault Pistols
The OA-93 from the 1997 live-action Spawn film
The OA-93 from the 1997 live-action Spawn film
The Imperial Bolter and Bolter Pistol from the WH40K Universe
The Close Quarters Battle Weapon Type-O "RAISEN" Battlestar Galactica: Miniseries
The OmniCorp M2 "Battle Rifle" Assault Pistol from ROBOCOP (2014)
Okay, I don't want to talk about this movie and in fact, I don't want to remember that this dogshit reboot exists at all...but here we are. In the 2014 "film", Robocop uses an weapon described as "Modified M2 Battle Rifle - .50 caliber Beowulf ammunition at 30-round clips. Three shot bursts or full-auto. Heavy duty." Let us unpack this information. .50 Beowulf is a real very powerful cartridge that is made by Alexander Arms and was designed by Bill Alexander for use in a modified AR15 platform.
The SKYNET Plasma Assault Pistol from the NOW Comics The Terminator Series
The Morita Assault Pistol/Survival Rifle from Starship Troopers 3
The Jacket SCAR-H Cutdown from Edge of Tomorrow
In the western film based off the Japanese light novel All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, we see the exo-suits (Jackets) worn by the UDF soldiers armed with various weapon systems. One of the these was their primary forearm mounted assault rifle or assault pistol: the FN SCAR-H. At the end of the time, Tom Cruise's character strips the SCAR-H off of the powered down Jacket Exo-Suit. There has been some debate online about if the weapon was a SCAR-L or SCAR-H. In the film (I originally thought it was a Beretta ARX-160), we see several shots of the ammunition for the Jacket rifle being 5.56mm, however, the weapon is a SCAR-H and would make sense. The 7.62mm NATO round would be my choice for a mounted weapon and to deal with larger prey.
Another way that we know that the weapon mounted on the UDF Jacket Exo-Suits was an FN SCAR-H is that one of the stunt props went on sale. According to the item description, this prop weapon was based on the 7.62mm NATO FN SCAR-H with an FN integrated grenade launcher. Made out of something called "biscuit foam" and has a strobe emitter for simulated automatic fire muzzle flash or a mark for post-production. By the way, here are the sizes for the prop SCAR-H "pistol": 23.23" x 3.15" x 9.84" (59cm x 8cm x 25cm)
Next Time on FWS...